China is attempting the largest artificial rain experiment in history, on an area about three times the size of Spain.
China’s ‘Sky River’ will be the largest artificial rain experiment in history, covering a land mass larger than Alaska and three times the size of Spain.
Researchers plan to install thousands of fuel-burning chambers across the Tibetan mountains to induce rainfall, in a form of weather modification called ‘cloud seeding’.
Some researchers believe this experiment would threaten ecosystems, since cloud seeding doesn’t actually produce more rain — instead, it redirects clouds to rain in a different location.
China is building the foundations of what will become the largest artificial rain experiment in history, in an attempt to induce extra rainfall over the Tibetan Plateau.
The project will see tens of thousands of fuel-burning chambers installed across the Tibetan mountains, with a view to boosting rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres annually, according to reports.
The plan, which is an extension of a project called Tianhe or ‘Sky River’ developed by researchers in 2016 at China’s Tsinghua university, is hoped to bring extra rain to a massive area spanning some 1.6 million square kilometres (almost 620,000 square miles).
For a bit of context, that’s larger than Alaska, and about three times the size of Spain, according to the South China Morning Post(SCMP), and this immense scope means the extra rainfall expected will also be voluminous if the plan succeeds, equivalent to roughly 7 percent of China’s annual water consumption.
“[Modifying the weather in Tibet] is a critical innovation to solve China’s water shortage problem,” said Lei Fanpei, president of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which is developing the project.
“It will make an important contribution not only to China’s development and world prosperity, but also the well being of the entire human race.”
While it sounds like something out of science fiction, this form of weather modification, called cloud seeding, is something scientists have been trying to pull off for decades now, and China is more deeply invested in the concept than anywhere else in the world.
In the Tibetan project, the burning chambers will produce silver iodide particles that will be carried into the atmosphere by the wind, where they are expected to seed moisture clouds capable of producing rain and snow.
“[So far,] more than 500 burners have been deployed on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang, and other areas for experimental use,” one researcher working on the project told SCMP.
“The data we have collected show very promising results.”
But not everybody is convinced of China’s plans of creating artificial rainfall over such a wide area, especially because there’s still a lot we don’t know about how cloud seeding — which is usually initiated by more localized chemical agents released into the atmosphere by planes — affects broader weather patterns.